Potato farmers’ income comes mainly from two sources. Firstly they make a living from selling their produce to the food processing industry that uses potatoes to produce chips and other potato products used in the hospitality industry.
Secondly they sell potatoes to supermarkets, market traders and small shops for sale to domestic consumers.
Lockdown forced down prices
The price farmers have been able to get for their potatoes from the food processing and hospitality industries has been low for some time. This is mainly due to the effect of the lockdown.
The lockdown saw restaurants and bars close for just over 12 weeks and few if any events have been organised since mid-March . This has resulted in a huge drop in demand for frozen chips and companies that process potatoes have been left with surplus stock.
Although demand has started to rise again it is nowhere near what it was prior to the crisis. The international trade federation that represents Belgian potato farmers predicts that prices will remain at the current low level until the end of the year. Currently the price farmers can get for their potatoes is 66% lower than it was last year.
Hot weather had a negative impact on the harvest
Another issue faced by our region’s potato farmers is a poor harvest that has come about as a result of the prolonged period of hot weather during the summer. It is estimated that this year’s potato harvest is 6% smaller than last year’s.
Although the fact that there a fewer potatoes available means that farmers can ask shops and supermarkets for more than they otherwise would for their produce this goes little way to making up for the shortfall caused by a fall in sales to industrial customers. The trade federation expects that next year farmers will plant fewer potatoes to prevent surpluses and a further fall in potato prices.